Thule were at Icebike showing off their wares, the wares in question being car racks for carrying your bike in style. Mostly they wanted to talk to us about the new black and green livery they've been introducing to tie in with their adventure racing team; mostly we wanted to play with the SlideBars.
Adventure racing isn't that big in the UK, at least not in the way it is in other countries around the globe. So it may have escaped your notice that Thule have an adventure racing team at all. But they do, and they were World Champions in 2011. So, well done them.
Anyway, they have a nice black and green thing going on with their kit, and Thule have decided to have a go with that on some of their racks, mostly black with subtle green higlights. They look very nice indeed; the towbar-mounted 921 Euroway rack on display in team colours also had a wealth of features that made it look like a very complete solution.
It's available as a 2- or 3-bike rack (the 923) and each individual track is adjustable to the length of the bike it's holding. The stabilising bars are lockable and easy to move around the frame so they're holding the bike securely.
The buckles use a ratchet system to tighten everything up nice and snug, and once the bikes are in place you can still get your sandwiches out of the boot, thanks to a clever foot operated tilt pedal which arcs the bikes away from the rear of the car. You can even adjust the width of the lights so that the rack doesn't stick out if you have a small motor. It's a very well thought through piece of kit. The 921 retails at £279.99 and the 923 at £349.99.
Anyway, on to the SlideBars. Roof-mounted carriers are great: bikes are out of the way of lights and windows, and you can fit loads of them on if you want. What's not great is having to be the person that's trying to load the middle bike into the rack. I'm over six feet tall and even I struggle at times with reaching the clips and knobs in the middle of the roof. If you're petite and driving a tall car, you might need to pack a milk crate. If your car is wet, or muddy, you will be too.
Not with the SlideBars though. It's a two-part roof bar; a bit you clamp to your roof using Thule's normal feet, and another bit that slides over the top. Flick up a lever and you can slide the whole bike rack up to 60cm off the roof in either direction, plenty enough to bring even bikes in the very middle of the roof within reach. It makes loading them up much simpler too, and when you're done the whole assembly just clicks back into place. They're lockable to stop every man and his dog trying them out in the sportive car park.
Everyone we showed it to said, "I simply MUST have some" and we want some too. The SlideBars work with Thule's existing range of feet and roof mounted carriers, the most popular of which is the downtube-grabbing 591, although the fork-mount 561 arguably looks more Pro and is better for delicate Carbon (or wafer-thin Aluminium) frames. The SlideBars aren't cheap; at £184.99 for the narrowest ones and maxing out at £224.99 for the widest they're more than twice the price of Thule's standard wing bar. We still want some though.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.